It’s important for beekeepers to listen to their honey bees. Your productive, buzzing little friends might not be as obvious as a sick cat or upset dog, but they’ll still display a few sure signs when something is wrong in their colony. By paying close attention when your colonies are sick as well as when they’re in their prime, you can catch and address problems quickly. Keep your honey bees happy and healthy by watching out for these four common signs your hive is failing.
There’s No Queen
Honey bee queens are the most important members of the hive. Without a productive queen, your colony won’t last long. There are a few different signs your colony is queen-less to watch out for. The earlier you catch and identify this problem, the better chance you have of correcting it. If you notice your honey bees struggling to raise a replacement queen, you can buy a queen bee to take over and get the colony back on track.
Laying workers are symptoms of a queen-less colony, but they present another problem in and of themselves. Because worker bees haven’t mated like the queen has, they cannot produce fertilized eggs. This results in them laying only drone eggs and throwing off the population balance. You can identify laying workers by the haphazard way they lay their eggs. Laying workers will place multiple eggs in one cell, while a queen knows to place only one egg per cell.
It Smells Bad
Your nose can help you identify one of the most common signs your hive is failing. After months or years of regular hive inspections, you should know what a healthy honey bee hive smells like. If your colony is doing well, the hive will smell sweet and warm like the honey and wax within. An unhealthy colony, on the other hand, will often emit a sour or rotten odor. These scents often indicate diseases such as foulbrood. They might also be signs of pest control issues—you might be smelling mice or other invaders hiding around your hive.
The Population Is Down
If you’re used to a thriving honey bee population, you’re sure to notice when those numbers drop. If you find your previously healthy hive suddenly empty, your honey bees might have fallen victim to colony collapse disorder. An emptier hive might also mean that your honey bees needed to find a new home, possibly due to pests such as mice, ants, or wax beetles. Similarly, you should keep an eye out for dead bees littering the hive. Honey bee death is a natural part of owning a colony, but the worker bees usually do a good job of clearing out the bodies and keeping the hive clean. If you see an excess number of dead bees, it’s probably a sign of other troubles within the hive.
If your hive isn’t doing too hot, Kelley Beekeeping wants to help. From the answers you need to the equipment that will solve the problem, we’ve got everything you need to get your hive back on track.